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Friday, July 29, 2011

Thematic Convergence on the Shape of Stories

Over the last couple of days I have been pondering stories and storytelling. What makes a great story? What makes a great storyteller? As these thoughts have been bouncing around in my head, I came across a book from Red Clover Press called Monoculture by F.S. Michaels.

Red Clover Press is the little publisher of art, culture, and big ideas. And, their first published book is the aforementioned Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything. I think it’s interesting for a publisher to chose their first work to be about stories.

“Storytelling is a form of immortality. It goes from one generation to another,” says the American author Studs Terkel. Now memories and stories can fade, become diluted, or gain more momentum than deserved, but the act of publishing that story secures it in a particular time and place. I think this is why authors seek publication, it’s not enough to just write. Published works become a legacy.

But not all great stories are published, or publishable. When James and I talk about stories, we’re typically talking about how stories help us make sense of who we are, where we come from and where we are going. Monoculture is about a master story that takes over and narrows our understanding of our place in the world, or how to fit in the world. So far, 100 pages in, it’s a pessimistic story about economics and efficiency are altering our social activities. But these aren’t necessarily the stories James and I discuss. We’re inclined to chat about universal stories.

Here is the thematic convergence. Amongst all the thinking about stories this week, I stumbled across a video clip of Kurt Vonnegut discussing the shape of stories and how these could be programmatically understood. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, I pass along this story:

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